Legends Live Forever

Earlier this month I checked something off of my bucket list–a trip to the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony for one of my all-time favorite legends–Brett Favre. The weekend was a fan’s dream–but the Enshrinement Ceremony on Saturday night stands out for reasons beyond the game of football.

Eight men who’ve made an impact in the NFL were notably honored on stage that evening. Their bronze busts were unveiled as each NFL hero was introduced with video tributes that highlighted their careers. The enshrinees who were present at the ceremony, then took the stage to speak to a stadium-packed audience. As I listened to each man speak, I was captivated by their hearts and how they communicated what really matters to them about being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Their video reels highlighted their accomplishments on the field and in the business, yet as each man spoke, there wasn’t a lot of focus on football–instead they brought attention, admiration, and affection to what lasts after the cleats are retired and the clipboards are put away–relationships with people. Here is my takeaway on what matters to the NFL greats:

  • Influences: Listening to each inductee pay tribute to individuals who impacted them not just as professionals, but as individuals, was inspiring. No one mentioned how someone taught them how to tackle or throw the ball, however. Each player paid tribute to high school and college coaches who spoke into their lives on being men of character and perseverance. Tony Dungy thanked coaches who guided him in his faith both on and off the field. Marvin Harrison, who played for Tony Dungy, expressed admiration not only for Dungy as a coach, but as a man who taught him what it meant to be a father. These NFL legends attributed their success to individuals who not only influenced them in the game of football, but in life.
  • Family: Kevin Greene expressed how growing up in a military family continues to be a strong influence on who he is today and honored the men and women who protect our country. Eddie DeBartolo spoke admirably about his daughter who graciously gives back to her community. Orlando Pace gave credit to his single mother and grandmother for providing him with opportunities–even when it wasn’t easy. And Brett Favre brought a stadium to tears when he reminded fans of his wife’s bravery, when he got choked up about his mother-in-law’s unwavering support, and his late father’s no-nonsense parenting that pushed him to be the best. At the end of the day, no matter what your family looks like, they’re one of your strongest influences, supports, and admirers.
  • Team: These NFL greats have a firsthand appreciation that no man (or woman) is an island. They understand that their NFL success is attributed to individuals who have helped them succeed on the field. Each inductee was visibly grateful and appreciative of their teammates who sweat, sacrificed, and succeeded with them on game day, in practice, and in life. These men see their team as family, and even embrace players from rival teams as comrades who shared in a common goal. When Favre asked those in the audience who have played the game with him to stand, it was moving to see over 200 men–those who played with him in high school, college, and professionally–rise to be thanked and recognized. Legends of the game understand that their success rides not just on their own merits, but more so on the partnership of their brotherhood on the field.

My weekend at the NFL Hall of Fame was the perfect way to kick-off my favorite time of the year (football season!). I hope this post is a reminder that on or off the field–coaches, teammates, family–you’re an influential staple in the lives of others. You are the true legends.–CK